By Neil Leverett and Niall Clarke
- 2018/19 Premier League campaign begins this weekend
- Holders Manchester City travel to Arsenal on Sunday in game of the week
- Both Liverpool and Wolves play host to intriguing opening weekend clashes
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – As the new season swings into gear, we focus on the game of the week as Arsenal host champions Manchester City, with both Wolves and Liverpool serving up intriguing clashes.
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Game of the week: Arsenal vs Manchester City (Sunday, 16:00)
It is rare you get two top six sides facing each other on the opening weekend, but that is exactly what we get at the Emirates on Sunday when Manchester City begin their title defence against Arsenal.
Pep Guardiola’s men ran away with the league last season, breaking numerous records in a dominant campaign. Not only did City record the most wins and points in a single Premier League season, the Citizens did it playing an attractive brand of football that left many of their opponents helpless.
Man City go into the 2018/19 season as heavy favourites to retain their title, however that is something that has not been achieved in 10 seasons. It will be asking a lot of this team to replicate their success of last season, but we should get an indication of how good City will be in their opening game.
Arsenal begin a new era after saying farewell to Arsene Wenger at the end of last season after over 20 years in charge. Unai Emery is the man entrusted with the task of bringing the Gunners back to the big time, and what an impression he would make by beating last season’s dominant Champions.
Emery will likely set this Arsenal side up like he did with PSG and will look to unlock Mesut Ozil, with Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka taking up more defensive responsibilities. The Gunners will look to press high and keep the ball with the pace of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being a huge threat up top.
Manchester City did struggle when teams pressed their back-line last season as evident in their games against Liverpool and the second half of the home fixture against Manchester United. Arsenal will do this under Emery and that may cause City problems. However, if Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva do come back into the side, the defending champions should control the game and edge a win.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-3 Manchester City
Neil’s One to watch: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Everton (Saturday, 17:30)
My pick of the opening weekend take place in the West Midlands, as newly-promoted Wolves face a new and exciting Everton side at Molineux on Saturday evening.
I fancy Nuno Espirito Santo’s men to do very well on their return to the top flight, after blowing all opposition aside in the Championship aside. Naive you say? Perhaps, but that Wolves squad would have been strong enough to compete last term, and having strengthened further with goalkeeper Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho to partner Ruben Neves in midfield, accompanying the permanent signings of Diogo Jota and Helder Costa, the squad is packed with ability – many of it Portuguese – and should be set fair this season.
Even there defence could be one of the surprise packages, but it is Jota that I see being one of the season’s unlikely stars. The Spaniard has been influenced by Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid in his early days and capable of playing a false number nine also could be invaluable to his side this season.
Like Wolves, Everton have had a summer of excellent recruitment that should make the Toffees a much tougher proposition this season. Not least in Marco Silva, who after month of well-publicised and bitter feeling with Watford, will be keen to give his hosts and many compatriots this weekend a reality check. It will be interesting to see the impact Lucas Digne might make at left-back, as Yerry Mina and Bernard wait in the wings to make their debuts next week.
Having added Richarlison and already with Theo Walcott in the wide areas, Everton should be able to get more out of Gylfi Sigurdsson this term, which we may see evidence of on Saturday.
This game, for me, screams goals with both sides using similar set-ups, with pace on the flanks and old-fashioned target men in the final third and we could have a cracker on the menu. Both these two sides for me will finish in the top half of the table, but for this particular encounter, I am just going for the Wolves to nick an opening win.
Prediction: Wolves 3-2 Everton
Niall’s One to watch: Liverpool vs West Ham United (Sunday, 13:30)
My game to watch in matchweek one of the season is Liverpool’s opener against West Ham United.
The Reds have been the Premier League’s biggest spenders this summer, splashing the cash to improve areas of the pitch they struggled in last season. Alisson is a world class ‘keeper that should sort their goalkeeping problem out, whilst the additions of Naby Keita and Fabinho add stability and creativity in midfield.
Many are tipping Jurgen Klopp’s side to challenge for the Premier League title this season so it will be interesting to see how they do in their opening match against a very good looking West Ham side.
The Hammers have invested themselves to bring in Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko and Jack Wilshere which will bolster their attacking options. However their best signing could be Manuel Pellegrini. The former Manchester City manager is capable of bringing West Ham up the table and he will undoubtedly bring in a more attractive style of football to the club.
This match is interesting for a number of reasons. We will see the first glimpse of the numerous signings these two teams have made, and also we are getting our first look at a potential title challenging side and a team that is capable of challenging for a European place. This is a match that could produce goals too with both Liverpool and West ham boasting some attacking talent.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 West Ham United
Premier League Matchweek 1 begins on Friday night, as Manchester United host Leicester City at Old Trafford, kick off 20:00.
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